On January 11, Costa Rica confirmed a case of measles, signaling a serious health threat. Specialists underscored the gravity of the situation, categorizing measles as the most contagious virus known to humanity, with transmission occurring through both respiratory and physical contact.
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued an alarming report, revealing a 30-fold increase in the number of people diagnosed with the virus in Europe by 2023.
Virologist Eugenia Corrales from the University of Costa Rica (UCR) explained, “Measles is a very contagious virus. In fact, if we talk about the R0 (basic reproductive number), which measures how many susceptible people become infected upon contact with an infected person, we are talking about 18.”
Costa Rican physicians expressed concern over the low vaccination rates among susceptible populations, coupled with the high influx of tourists into the country.
Álvaro Avilés, the head of the Infectious Diseases Department at Hospital México, lamented the resurgence of measles, emphasizing that the disease was on the brink of eradication before misinformation about vaccines escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The vaccination program in the country mandates two doses at 15 months and 4 years of age, with a recommended coverage of 95%. Unfortunately, Costa Rica has fallen short of this target for the past three years, reporting coverage figures of 88% in 2020, 89% in 2021, and 93% in 2023 for the first dose. The coverage for the second dose was reported at 85%.
Dr. Leandra Abarca highlighted the critical issue of low vaccination coverage, pointing out that for three consecutive years, optimal coverage has not been achieved. This has left many children unvaccinated and more susceptible, while the second-risk group includes those who were vaccinated but did not attain the desired immunological protection, as well as individuals who cannot be vaccinated at all.
The most common symptoms of measles include a high fever (above 40 degrees), cough, runny nose (rhinitis), red and watery eyes (conjunctivitis), and a distinctive rash.
Costa Rican health authorities responded to the situation by announcing an immunization campaign for susceptible populations in April, aiming to address the immediate threat and protect public health.